Nutritional Knowledge is Power

Recent legislation in New York City has put calorie counts on every restaurant menu item. This law was posed as a public health initiative is based on the idea that most of us, while paying attention at home, have little knowledge as to the calorie contents of foods we ourselves haven’t prepared.

The motivation behind the legislation is that New York City will see 150,000 less obese residents over the next five years. Also expected is the prevention of 30,000 cases of diabetes.

From reports in the general press, there may be some meat to this argument. MSNBC recently ran an article that included interviews with several New Yorkers, most of whom were appalled to find the calorie content of their food was much higher than they had ever anticipated.

In 2004 Ruby Tuesday’s Restaurants took a national initiative and printed the calorie, fat and carbohydrate values on their menus. The initiative lasted about a month before consumer concern over the nutritional values drove the company to hide Nutritional information.

Chains like Outback no longer provide substantial nutritional information on their website - choosing instead to list options for people requiring diabetic meals or low carbohydrate diets. Given the fact that an appetizer on their menu, the Bloomin’ Onion carries over 2,000 calories to the table it’s no surprise that consumers began to shy away from unhealthy foods in the past few days in New York.

At a TGI Friday’s in New York the Classic Sirloin, at a sparse 290 calories quickly sold out and has become one of the most popular menu entrees.

Other notable calorie contents:

Friday’s Pecan Crusted Chicken Salad
Friday’s Cheeseburger with Fries
Olive Garden Eggplant Parmigiana (Lunch)
Garden Fettuccine Alfredo (Lunch)  
Dunkin Donuts Coffee Cake Muffin
Dunkin Donuts Glazed Donut
Panera Sierra Turkey Sandwich
Panera Carrot Walnut Mini Bundt Cake
1360 Calories
1290 Calories
793 Calories
850 Calories
580 Calories
180 Calories
960 Calories
430 Calories

While ultimately, the decision to eat healthy rests on the consumer, most of us are unaware of which options are the best. Legislation has been proposed, but not passed in other major cities as the restaurant industry waits with intense concern to see how challenges to the law will proceed in the New York court system.

From a health care perspective, the easier it is to get information about the food we eat, the easier it is for our patients, the consumers, to make healthier decisions.